Mediterranean diets are all the rage. And why not? Fish. Olive oil. Garlic. Healthy, healthy, healthy. These civilizations have lasted for thousands of years and their people are happy and their cultures vibrant. They must know something we don't. I would love to say that my lovely wife the Rock Star and I were determined to seek out Turkish food this lovely Sunday morn, but truth is, we were looking for a nice brunch place at The Shops at Legacy before our afternoon matinee at the Angelika, and were on our way to another place nearby. Alas, the place we were seeking was on the sunny side of the bullring, so to speak, and we had determined to sit on the patio, when suddenly blue banners caught our eye, and noticing that Cafe Istanbul was closer to the Bellagio-like fountain than our intended destination, we made the decision to dine there at once. (Well, almost at once. Restaurant owners, learn this lesson, please: Much potential business is to be gained by posting your menu with prices outside your establishment, for if customers see what they like and the price is right, they may choose to dine with you there and then. And so it was with us.)
I would like to report on the interior decor of Cafe Istanbul, but alas the fountain was in full bloom when we were there and we did not want to miss a single performance. (It erupted every 10-15 minutes.) Pictures from the Dallas location are on the website http://www.cafe-istanbul.net/, and they show metal folding chairs on the patio there. Luckily, such is not the case in Plano, and sitting on the patio was quite lovely indeed. I was concerned that perhaps alcohol would not be available, but our request for a wine list was met with a ready response. It seems that Turkey has a strong secular tradition. In this case, I'm glad.
On their website, Cafe Istanbul posts a quote from a book called The Historical Evolution of Turkish Cuisine, in which author Navin Hallci states that Turkish food is "one of the three foremost examples of culinary art in the world." (For the record, French and Chinese are the other two.) Quite a bold statement indeed. Yet, after sampling chef Erol Girgin's wares, I think that Hallci may be on to something. We began our repast with Kisir (Tabuleh), cracked wheat lightly flavored with tomato paste, parsley, and onions. Very nice, although I would have preferred more paste and spice. So many appetizing goodies were featured on the menu that my bride had trouble making up her mind, finally deciding on a chef's special featuring ground beef and lamb served with rice pilaf and yogurt. Spices in this dish were seemingly restrained at first, then suddenly popped up and surprised her, which prompted her to quell the fires with yogurt and her glass of New Zealand Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc. (Yogurt is served in these countries precisely for its quenching abilities. Not to mention flavor.) The same late-blooming zing was forthcoming in my entree, the Terbiyeli Sis Kebap, a charbroiled delight of lamb marinated in hot sauce and spice that would make any pepper-loving Texan proud. My personal conflagration was doused with Efes Pilsen, a good Turkish brew in the style of Dos Equis. After such an eventful meal, we decided to split a simple dessert. Kayisi Tatlisi proved to be dried apricots filled with light cream and served with walnuts, and was a nice, light ending to a wonderful meal.
Service was leisurely paced in the best brunch tradition, but was not at all inattentive. Our waiter even managed a hearty laugh when I amended my usual saying of "When in Rome, do as the Romans do," and changed the city in question to Constantinople. I did not want another great schism on my hands.
In sum, I'm not sure I'm ready to declare that Turkish is one of the world's three greatest cuisines, but after such a meal, I feel more research is in the offing. Again, website is http://www.cafe-istanbul.net/. Discover Cafe Istanbul for brunch yourself soon, and remember:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT OF MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!